The Oakland Cemetery gravestone of Carrie Steele Logan reads, "The mother of orphans. She hath done what she could." It honors a woman who spent most of her life trying to do as much as she could for Atlanta’s homeless children. And, in the process, she created a lasting legacy.
Born into slavery in 1829 Georgia, Carrie Steele was, herself, orphaned at a young age. Gaining her freedom after the Civil War, she made her way to Atlanta, where she worked as a maid at Atlanta’s train depot, Union Station, earning $100 a month. Alarmed by the large number of homeless African American children she encountered around the depot, Steele received permission for the children to stay at the rail yard during the day under her watchful eye. At night, she took them home to her house, until their numbers exceeded the capacity of her small Wheat Street cottage. By then, caring for Atlanta’s unwanted children had become a way of life for Carrie Steele and, not to be deterred, she decided to open an orphanage.
She left her job at the Depot and devoted her life to the care and upbringing of orphaned children. To pay for the cost of caring for the children, she sold her home, wrote an autobiography, and solicited community donations. In 1888, at age 59, she secured a charter for the Carrie Steele Orphan Home, a two-room house with space for five children. Soon after, Carrie Steele married a minister named Josiah Logan. Within four short years, her organization outgrew that home and moved into a new, three-story structure with space for fifty children. Over the years, the home that Carrie Steele Logan’s devotion built would expand again and again, until reaching its current home on over two dozen acres.
Carrie Steele Logan died in 1900, but her orphanage lives on to this day. Said to be the oldest Black orphanage in the nation, the Carrie Steele-Pitts Home (its surname honoring a later director) has housed more than 20,000 children since its inception. And it all started with the kind-hearted former slave who became “the mother of orphans.”
Emmanuel is a self-taught acrylic painter currently living and working out of Atlanta, GA. Inspired by surrealist and imaginative thinkers such as Salvador Dali and Tim Burton, he uses vivid colors and fantastical scenes to self-reflect on truths that transcend space, time, and the individual reality. Through his work, he hopes to guide viewers on an introspective journey that uncovers their own personal truths, and how those truths connect us universally.